Last weekend, Chris, Lynda and I attended a Saturday training session at the Uniting Church’s Centre for Theology and Ministry on playgroup ministry. Sorry, no photos as it simply never occurs to me to take them!
I haven’t attended for a couple of years although I had been a regular attendee as had Chris and Lynda – do talk to them about their thoughts and learning. I was so thankful I had taken the time to organise life at home so I could attend this year.
I attended three sessions with the same speaker on how to have safe conversations with people in a ministry setting. Although some of it was a good reminder of the pastoral training I’ve done – and we all need to revisit what we think we know on a regular basis! – I learnt some new techniques which I will be practising around the place so look out…
The speaker suggested certain areas as safe for conversation. However, there were pitfalls too:
- “where do you live?” – What if the person has no home or is couch surfing with friends?
- “what does your family look like?” – What if it’s blended, same gender or trans? What if there is no family? – Are people really going to feel safe sharing that?
- “how do you spend your time?” – What if the person hasn’t worked for some time?
- “what are your dreams and goals?” – What if the person has given up dreaming?
That is a very quick précis of what happened, but stimulated by this discussion, I also started to think some more about a question that was asked of me at Family@10 recently – “how can we share our faith with others?” How do we share and not be weird or scary? Such a good question.
My initial thought was we don’t necessarily share with words, we share with our actions and lives and the choices we make. But that’s not good enough if you only have 10 minutes of conversation with someone you’ve just met and may never meet again. Would that be a safe conversation? How could that be a safe conversation?
This led me to ponder what is ‘conversation’ and so I have been noting when and how I connect with others for a very short length of time and for what happens when I do. It’s usually at the supermarket checkout (not the self-serve but tills with real life people).
This week, I have been asking “how’s your day been?” or “how’s your shift been today?” and then I have listened as the person has processed my bit of shopping and responded to what they’ve told me. And I’ve responded not with the usual “aha” or “oh dear” but with acknowledgement of what I’ve heard “yes, some people are rude but are you feeling ok now?” or “that’s tough – so when do you think you’ll get that last bit of homework done?”
I wondered if such questions and comments would be weird but they’ve been well received by the person who has willingly engaged in a chat. And then the person behind me in the queue has been drawn into the conversation, which means it continues once I’ve paid and left the shop – I wonder how long it lasted. However, I did not talk to them about faith in those conversations just listened and responded to what they were saying so, to answer the question from Family@10 “how do we share our faith with others”, we’ll need to explore that in way more detail during a service.
A day at a playgroup training session at CTM when I thought I knew what to expect, led me to ponder all sorts of questions beyond the playgroup and into ministry and life generally. I wonder if that’s ever happened to you? Have you ever signed up for something and then been blown away by what you’ve learnt? Do share!